For a while, it was difficult to find hand sanitizer and toilet paper on store shelves. Other products have been selling out too during the pandemic. Sales of jigsaw puzzles, bikes, snowshoes, kitchen tools, baking yeast, fitness equipment, sewing machines, and books have all skyrocketed!
One of the silver linings of this unusual time has been new learning. An analysis of trends on Google identified activities that people have been looking at the most in this past year. Not surprising we’ve all been binging a bit on Netflix and Disney+, but we’ve also been more interested in reading, knitting, home workouts, board games, and baking. People have been trying new hobbies and learning new things.
Learning something new can change your brain. Neuroscience has shown us that the more you practice a new skill, the more your brain’s white matter grows. Your brain gets more efficient as new neural pathways are formed and electrical impulses begin to travel faster. No matter how old your brain is, it still reacts to new learning by growing new connections. If we stop learning and engaging in new activities, the brain will ‘prune’ connections that aren’t being used.
New research has shown that to keep our brains healthy as we age, we need to do activities that are new, challenging, and enjoyable. So instead of doing the same kind of puzzles over and over, try something new. Try planting a garden, exploring your genealogy, or learning a new craft or sport like photography, crocheting, or tai chi.
The Global Council on Brain Health’s new report suggests these seven ways to keep learning and keep your brain healthy:
- Don’t be too eager to retire
- Learn a new language
- Get physically active
- Stay socially connected
- Do what you enjoy and really dive into it
- Start taking care of your brain early in life; but it’s never to late to start
We have certainly faced some big challenges having been limited in our physical and social contacts this past year. Hopefully we are in the last 10 kilometers of what has felt like a marathon. Let’s focus on ending strong and embrace learning something new! So, pick up that harmonica, pull out the knitting needles, or grab the sketch pad and pencils. It’s never too late and it’s great for your brain development to always be a beginner at something! Oh, and if anyone needs some sourdough starter because they want to learn how to bake bread, I’m happy to share!
Community Literacy Outreach Coordinator – Nelson
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy